Julie Freedman Smith & Gail Bell

Julie Freedman Smith and Gail Bell provide tools for real life parenting through their company, Parenting Power™. Using over 40 years of combined experience, they work with parents across the country through telephone coaching and teleconferences to ease the stress and guilt of parents while providing practical solutions to everyday parenting challenges. Visit www.parentingpower.ca to ask your own parenting questions, and learn how to receive 20% off all services as a Parenting Power Member!
talking to teachers
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Teachers do so much for our kids. During school hours, they often see a different child than the one we see at home, and notice both wonderful qualities as well as areas of growth. There will undoubtedly come a time when we may feel the need to speak with the teacher about a problem that our child is experiencing, whether at the teacher’s request or at our own. Here are six tools for making the most of a parent-teacher meeting.

  1. Book time to meet with the teacher. Just before or just after class is not a time when the teacher can give you or the issue at hand the full attention it deserves. While it may feel that your situation is the most important thing in the world, your child’s teacher has 29 other students who need to ask, ‘Just one small thing.’
  2. Remember that in almost all cases, all adults in the parent-teacher meeting want the best for the child. When we hold this to be true, we enter the meeting in a state of hope for a solution rather than in a position where our defensiveness might use up any energy we had for the meeting in the first place.
  3. Make a list before you enter the meeting. For many adults, sitting across the desk from a teacher reminds them of being held after class when they were kids. To be sure that emotions don’t rule the meeting, take some time before you get there to write down the facts and the feelings involved.
  4. Check your facts. There is often more than one truth; and it is worth remembering that a 6-year-old’s version of a story may not be complete. When discussing situations with teachers, a great sentence starter is, ‘The story we heard from Jenny after school yesterday was… Can you please share your point of view?’
  5. Don’t leave without a solution…or at least a plan for a solution. Often parent-teacher meetings are short. Keep track of the time in the meeting and be sure to leave a couple of minutes to determine what the next steps will be.
    • Who is doing what?
    • When will you next be in touch to see how things are working?
    • Who will contact whom? (We suggest that the parent follows up)
    • How will the contact happen? (email, phone, note in the agenda)
  6. Involve your child when possible. Having a bunch of adults discussing a child’s issue without the child may well result in the child taking absolutely no responsibility for the issue. When possible, have the child involved in the meeting and be sure that all adults are clear with the child about each person’s role in the solution, especially the expectations and consequences for the child as you move forward.
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How Did I End up with That Kid
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As we make the move from summer back to school, it can be tricky to understand how we got the child with a specific misbehaviour. It’s as if this behaviour was handed to the infant just prior to the stork gathering up the bundle and dropping it in the cabbage patch for us to discover.

‘My child just won’t remember her lunch.’

‘My son will not practise the piano.’

‘I’m not sure how I got the kid who doesn’t do homework.’

Temperament plays a factor in every human. Statistically, one in four children will be a pleaser, two in four will go along with some motivation and the last one will fight things tooth and nail. If you happened to be blessed with a child in the latter category, it is going to take a great deal more structure and consistency to get through to that one. That’s what we call parenting.

At Parenting Power, we believe that kids are capable. Capable of meeting our expectations and of learning from their parents.

If parents declare the fact, ‘My daughter always forgets her lunch,’ they are correct. She will believe them. She will live that declaration passionately.

Parenting is about taking responsibility to expect our kids to be capable of learning and to encourage them with words and actions that say, ‘I know you can do this. I know you can learn and I’m here to teach you.’

For many kids, it is not until we expect them to practice piano, take responsibility for their stuff and/or do homework that it will happen. Then, we need to work with our kids to develop a plan for that to happen. If your child knows that all they have to do is create a big fuss about doing homework, or ignore it and put up with your ranting in order to get out of it, you have taught them well. You need to take the time to teach the right way for homework to happen (or clean up, or piano, or dishes or whatever it is in your house.)

We can choose to play the role of victim and claim that we just got the kid who won’t clean up. Or we can take responsibility for the situation and make a plan to teach our child how to clean up—and what the expectations and the consequences are. How will we teach this task? What amount of time do we need to work on this with our child? How do we schedule that?

This is real life parenting: communicating clearly, acknowledging feelings and using language that encourages our kids to do what needs to happen in real life. They don’t have to like loading and unloading the dishwasher. They need to know that complaining about it won’t make the task go away. Doing the task is what makes it go away…until tomorrow.

Need some help? We’re here.

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